Who does not love Chanel? Fashion, accessories, perfumes... and who is not fascinated by the legendary Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel? In a few months we had two movies (hence the title) to understand her better: first came "Coco before Chanel" and lately "Coco and Igor Stravinsky". I will talk about the latter which is based on the fictional novel "Coco & Igor" by Chris Greenhalgh and describes the affair between Chanel and Stravinsky in Paris in 1920, the same year that Chanel N.5 was created.
"There is time for work, and time for love. That leaves no other time”
is one of Chanel's famous quotes and the movie talks about her at work and in love.
Jan Kounen, the director, shot both French/Russian-language (the one I saw) and English-language versions of the film. I was not particularly excited by the choice of Anna Mouglalis and Mads Mikkelsen impersonating Coco and Igor, they were a bit too static, she had not much visual expression and moved like a runaway model instead of a person so full of personality and complicated character as the real Coco. The same thoughts I had watching Audrey Taoutou in "Coco before Chanel". Yelena Morozova, acting as Igor's wife, instead made on me a better impression and her feelings of happiness, pride and at the end pain and betrayal were very well portrayed.
But let's talk a little about the Interior decoration, very appropriately executed in terms of style.
The beautiful house outside Paris where the love affair takes place surprised Stravinsky's wife at first glance with its black trims, not an usual choice for the time but we all know how much Chanel loved this color/non color. Even after moving in Madame Stravinskaya realizes that there is no color around and she tries to re-decorate her family's rooms putting a Russian colorful shawl on the bed headboard and other small items around. I thought it was a clever touch from the director to help describe more how different the two women were in every aspect.
Coco Chanel had a passion for white camellia flowers so quite appropriately the garden in the movie is filled with white flowers.
Most of the interior white walls have black trims and black stencils reflecting the style of Art Deco which is evident also in the use of non-traditional materials such as glass, mirrors, chrome, and other human-made materials. The geometry is apparent in every room of the mansion, where there are steps, rounded corners, or repeated lines, they always have a basic geometrical foundation. The colors are rigorously white, black and metallics throughout the house.
Even in the bathroom beautiful graphic black wood trims give personality to the otherwise simple room. If you'll go to see the movie please notice also the gorgeous black drapes in several rooms, just the right fullness... and all the graphic patterns on the rugs and the walls.
Photographs from the movie by Régine Abadia
The dining room above appears to me more Art Nouveau than Art Deco but it gives more credibility to the story, since the mansion was supposed to be Coco's country house, obviously not decorated in one day but as in real life made of a few layers of style and objects acquired through the years.
Chanel entering her store, 31 Rue Cambon, in 1962. Image by Douglas Kirkland
Rigorous black and white is still used in every Chanel store around the world. On 31 Rue Cambon, above the store, Coco had a glamorous, lavish apartment, mostly used for entertaining. In fact it did not have a bedroom so she walked every night to The Ritz Hotel across the street to sleep in her private luxurious suite. The famous mirrored staircase, which allowed Coco to view everything when she sat at the top, still remains unchanged. Her apartment, still intact, is filled with antiques and chinoiserie and it is surprisingly ornate, given her love of simple design, it looks nothing like the sleek interiors of the country house in the movie.
You can see more of her apartment if you click on this link: At Home with Chanel by Vogue.
Coco Chanel, 1920
Igor Stravinsky, 1921
A portrait by Man Ray
A portrait by Cecil Beaton
From the collection of the Metropolitan Museum
Archive Photos/Getty images
"Fashion fades, only style remains the same" she used to say and so much style she had.
Back to the movie, the most appealing parts of "Coco & Igor Stravinsky" were the music and the interior decoration, the love story was exciting even if sad, the glamour of her life not so apparent and I wish I was in charge of the casting, I would have chosen Isabelle Huppert or Juliette Binoche, maybe Fanny Ardant a few years ago.
Who would you choose?